True champions don’t buckle, and Shane Lowry overcame a terrible start to his second round of the Honda Classic – bogeying three of his opening three holes – to dig deep and sign off with a birdie on his closing hole for back-to-back 69s, putting him right into the mix on two-under-par 138 at the midpoint of the PGA Tour event at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
While former world number one Luke Donald, without a win on tour since 2012 and currently ranked 456th in those rankings, rekindled some of his former glories to fire a 66 to join his fellow-Englishman Lee Westwood and American JT Poston atop the early clubhouse leaderboard on four-under-par 136, Lowry’s adventures kept the Offaly man’s mind firmly on the task at hand.
Lowry’s up-and-down round of 69 featured an eagle, four birdies and five bogeys but he finished in style with a wonderful approach to eight feet on the ninth, his finishing hole, to remain very much in the mix heading into the weekend.
It proved to be a tough start for the British Open champion, who – starting on the 10th – hit a number of loose approach shots: he missed the green with his approach to the 10th and failed to get up-and-down from greenside rough; was punished for an approach into a greenside bunker on the 12th and was threading water after a three-putt bogey on the 13th.
Lowry finally got his round going with a 20 footer for birdie on the 14th and made it back-to-back birdies on the Par 3 15th where he rolled in an eight-footer. Then, on the Par 5 18th, Lowry hit a stunning approach from 240 yards to 20 feet and rolled in the eagle putt to turn in 34.
His back nine saw him make a further upward move with a birdie on the Par 5 third before he gave back shots on the fifth and eighth holes where he missed the greens with approach shots, only to bring a smile back to his face again with a fine birdie finish on the ninth.
Donald’s round was also an adventurous one. Three over on his card through five holes, Donald proceeded to reel off eight birdies on his final 13 holes to propel himself into contention. Troubled by a back injury in recent seasons, Donald – fit again – remarked: “A back injury at 40 years old, you can lose a bit of momentum. It takes time to get that back. Obviously, confidence breeds confidence and you need to keep plugging away and get yourself into position to really help for future times you’re in position. It’s going to be nice to be up there this weekend and hopefully play well.”
Brooks Koepka, who relinquished the world number one spot to Rory McIlroy earlier this month, showed further evidence of rust in his comeback from knee surgery and missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 for eight-over 148 to miss the cut.
McIlroy, meanwhile, has confirmed he will definitely play in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet on May 28th-31st. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s a bit different going back for a May date as opposed to July and at a parkland course at Mount Juliet. I’ve never played the course but have got good memories, it was the first time I ever watched Tiger Woods play in person,” said McIlroy, referencing Woods’s win on the course in the American Express Championship in 2002.